Flight attendants tell Delta Air Lines 'It's union for us'

A contingent of Delta Air Lines flight attendants hand-delivered a petition for an election to join the Flight Attendants Association (AFA) to the National Mediation Board in Washington, D.C., and then joined more than 300 AFA and other union members for a rally downtown Aug. 29.

Simultaneously, rallies were held at airports throughout the nation, including Portland International, where a dozen Delta flight attendants were joined by members of other labor organizations, in a show of support for their organizing campaign.

"Today's the day you're filing your own flight plan," Oregon AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt told the Delta workers. Delta's 20,000 flight attendants are the only major U.S.-based flight attendants without a union. More than 350 are based in Portland.

Delta attendants began building a grass-roots campaign for a voice at work about five years ago after a series of pay and benefit cuts and unilateral changes in work rules, working conditions and scheduling practices.

The National Mediation Board filing means that as soon as the authorization cards from workers saying they want to join a union are verified - about 60 days - the board will set an election date.

But Delta is expected to continue what the union calls "one of the most expensive and illegal anti-union campaigns in history."

Delta sent a slick anti-union video to all 20,000 attendants, held captive audience and one-on-one meetings, engaged in worker surveillance and hired union-busting consultants, according to the AFA.

Delta's pilots, members of the Air Line Pilots Association for the past 65 years, passed a resolution of support at their recent Delta Master Executive Council meeting. It not only calls on Delta to allow the attendants to exercise their right to vote to form a union without interference, it urges pilots to actively support flight attendants by answering any questions about unions and urging flight attendants to support AFA and cast their ballots.

Flight attendants point to the success of their ALPA colleagues in recent contract victories as an example of what a strong union voice can do for workers on the job.

"Delta thinks we don't notice that the pilots' new contract includes significant raises, improved benefits, better schedules and strong work rules. Delta thinks we don't notice that the pilots got what they did because they're unionized and organized," Delta attendant Scott Hayter said.

September 7, 2001 issue

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